Figuring out the right camera and lens probably takes up most of the time you spend thinking about gear. But the smaller stuff, like a fast memory card, special-effects filter or cleaning gadget, often can make the time you spend shooting more productive—and even just more fun.
An alternative to a camera neck strap, the b-Grip EVO belt holder keeps your DSLR firmly and comfortably at your side. The base attaches to a waist belt and a quick-release plate connects to the camera’s tripod socket, so your DSLR stays in place without swinging until you need it. Optional accessories, such as a tripod adapter and hand strap, are also available. Estimated Street Price: $59 (belt holder).
The Lens Bumper from DeluxGear absorbs impact and prevents scrapes, scratches, dents and cracks to your lenses. The exterior is a tough 0.08-inch Santoprene outer cover, while the cushioned, water-resistant inner core is made of 0.25-inch-thick closed-cell neoprene. Slide it over the end of your lens or hood, or reverse the hood over the lens and slide the Lens Bumper over the inverted hood. List Price: $24 to $74.
Whether shooting with a DSLR or a point-and-shoot, LensPen makes a cleaning solution for your camera. All the models are small enough for fitting in a camera bag or even your pocket. Each one includes a soft, retractable brush for removing loose dust and a cleaning tip with a carbon compound for removing fingerprints and other difficult marks. List Price: $14.
Cotton Carrier offers many useful solutions for transporting your camera from one location to the next. The basic system holds one or two DSLRs and comes with a unique one-size-fits-all adjustable vest. The Carry-Lite version consists of a cotton waist belt with a shoulder strap and side holster for carrying a camera at your side. For attaching a camera to your backpack or a second one to a camera vest, the StrapShot is ideal for photographers who are often on the move. Estimated Street Price: Varies.
Keep your lenses clean with Hoodman’s Lens Cleanse natural cleaning kit. The towelettes are made of soft natural wood fibers that won’t scratch the glass. Organic plant enzymes make up the cleaning solution, which breaks down grime without damaging the coatings on your lenses and filters or the environment. Each kit has a wet and a dry towelette, and they come in single units or packs of 12. List Price: $9 (12-pack).
Boost your smartphone’s picture-taking capabilities with the Novoflex Phone Kit. It includes a mini-tripod, a ballhead, a suction-cup mount for fastening to smooth surfaces and a universal mount that can be attached to the ballhead with one click. There’s also a special holder for iPhone 4 and 4S shooters. The ballhead and tripod can support a load capacity of up to 6.6 pounds, making it useful for point-and-shoots and mirrorless cameras, too. There’s also an optional iPad holder and a series of clamps to mount it to bikes and motorcycles. Estimated Street Price: $159.
For Canon EOS 5D Mark III shooters, the Phottix BP-5DIII Multi Function Battery Grip holds one or two LP-E6 or six AA batteries and features AF/On, AE lock/FE lock and AF point selection controls, a vertical shutter button, a command dial and a power switch. Designed to provide a comfortable vertical shooting position, the grip has an additional shutter release and scroll wheel for accessing camera functions when shooting vertically. The grip also has a tripod socket. List Price: $129.
REALLY RIGHT STUFF
When shooting on a tripod, the Really Right Stuff L-Plate bracket makes it easy to change your DSLR’s positioning from horizontal to vertical without having to move the ballhead and affect its stability. Along with the Arca-style mounting plate on the bottom, there’s an extension arm for mounting the camera in a vertical position. With the camera still mounted on the tripod, you just reattach the quick-release plate in the vertical position on the bracket. Estimated Street Price: Starts at $120.
Keep your camera from sliding or needing to be constantly readjusted using the XX Pad from UPstrap. Designed to prevent the camera strap from sliding down your shoulder, the XX Pad allows you to carry a range of cameras that vary in weight. UPstrap offers nylon or Kevlar webbing, and a heavy-duty quick-release system is available for the large and medium pads. Estimated Street Price: Starts at $33.
Pan, zoom and rotate images with one hand while using the other to sketch or paint using the Wacom Cintiq 24 HD touch. The tablet’s multi-touch functionality and gesture-support technology allow for a more natural workflow experience. The counterweighted stand can be adjusted to a position that you’re comfortable working in, with the display capable of reaching over the edge of the desk so that it rests in your lap, if desired. List Price: $3,699.
The Impel2 is the largest solar-power storage battery in Brunton’s extensive lineup. It charges nearly any electronic device through the built-in USB, 12v, 16v and 19v outputs, with similar power and capability of other solar chargers, but with half the size and weight, so you can connect it directly to your iPhone, iPad, GPS device and more. The water-resistant, durable housing can handle tough conditions. List Price: $349.
The Goal Zero Sherpa 50 portable recharger weighs just 14 ounces, half of its predecessor, yet is able to output the same 50-watt-hour power capacity. It measures less than five inches on each side and is only 1.5 inches thick so it fits easily into your bag. The Sherpa 50 charges fully via solar panel in five to 10 hours or within two to three hours using a wall outlet. List Price: TBA.
The Hähnel Giga T Pro II is a wireless remote control that features a self-timer, interval timer, long exposure setting and exposure count settings for time-lapse, wildlife, astral and studio photography. It also can be used as a short cable shutter release to eliminate camera shake. You can create a basic setup that allows you to program a timed shooting sequence, defining the delay, number of shots, interval shots and more. Estimated Street Price: $99.
Shooting with high-megapixel DSLRs, especially continuous shooting in RAW format or full HD video, requires a fast memory card. The data-transfer rate is referred to with an "x" rating—600x or 1000x. Each x equals a minimum sustained transfer rate of 150 KB/s, and all other speeds are expressed as multiples of that speed. For example, 600x is 90 MB/s (0.15 x 600) and 1000x is 150 MB/s (0.15 x 1000). Keep in mind that you want to use the fastest card that your camera can handle. A card that’s too fast for your camera won’t speed up shooting, and one that’s too slow won’t be able to keep up.
The Delkin 700X CompactFlash memory cards deliver transfer rates of up to 105 MB/s, with write speeds of up to 67 MB/s. With that kind of speed, the cards are ideal for using with high-performance DSLRs that have video modes for slow-motion recording. The cards are available in capacities of up to 128 GB. Estimated Street Price: $320 (64 GB).
If your camera is SDXC-compatible, the Hoodman RAW Steel Ultra High Speed UHS-I memory cards are now available in this format and are steel-plated to prevent damage or breakage in rough shooting environments. They have 45 MB/s read and write speeds, and are offered in capacities of up to 64 GB. List Price: $159 (64 GB).
With transfer speeds clocking in at up to 90 MB/s, the Kingston CompactFlash Ultimate 600x cards are a fast and reliable option, especially for shooting video at 1080p. The cards offer plenty of room for recording HD video, as well as high-resolution stills in RAW, JPEG, TIFF and other file formats. List Price: $95 (16 GB); $155 (32 GB).
The high-capacity Lexar Professional 600x SDHC and SDXC UHS-I cards deliver a minimum guaranteed read transfer speed of 90 MB/s. The card is especially useful if you do a lot of video work on a camera capable of 1080p recording. Capacities of 16 GB and 32 GB are available for the SDHC card, and 64 GB and 128 GB are available for the SDXC cards. List Price: $149 (32 GB); $279 (64 GB); $499 (128 GB).
When shooting with the PNY Pro-Elite Plus Series Hi-Speed SDHC memory cards, you’re set for capturing high-speed action shots and video clips. The cards have write speeds of up to 80 MB/s, and come in 8 GB, 16 GB and 32 GB capacities. Like most other cards, they’re fully water-, shock- and temperature-proof. List Price: $139 (32 GB).
Capture up to 10 hours of full HD video using the 128 GB SanDisk Extreme SDXC UHS-I memory card. Read and write speeds clock in at 45 MB/s, allowing you to capture high-resolution images in full burst mode and quickly transfer those files to a computer. List Price: $399.
The Transcend SDHC Class 10 UHS-I memory cards store up to 32 GB with read speeds of up to 85 MB/s and write speeds of up to 45 MB/s. The fast transfer rates and large capacity are ideal for fast continuous still shooting and smooth capture of 1080p HD video. List Price: $89 (32 GB).
There are three filters that are invaluable to improving your photography: circular polarizers, neutral-density filters and graduated neutral-density filters.
A circular polarizer reduces surface glare and reflections in your images, as well as improves color saturation.
With high-quality optical glass, the B+W Circular Polarizer with Multi-Resistant Coating delivers top-notch image quality. Exposure compensation is about two ƒ-stops. Estimated Street Price: $128 (77mm).
The Hoya EVO Circular Polarizer uses an improved Super Multi-Coating formula for reducing or eliminating reflections. The coating is overlayed with a clear water- and stain-resistant coating that’s easy to clean. Estimated Street Price: $172 (77mm).
The Pro-Optic Circular Polarizer is thin so it doesn’t cause vignetting with wide-angle lenses. Estimated Street Price: $44.
A neutral-density (ND) filter reduces how much light reaches your sensor so it’s ideal for using when a scene is too bright.
The Kenko Zeta ND4 and ND8 neutral-density filters reduce the amount of light entering the lens in an equivalent of two and three stops, respectively, useful for getting that dreamy, cotton-candy look to moving water. Estimated Street Price: Starts at $69.
Sunpak neutral-density filters are available in three strengths. The 2X model reduces light by one ƒ-stop, the 4X version by two ƒ-stops and the 8X filter by three ƒ-stops. Estimated Street Price: $27 (77mm 8X).
GRADUATED NEUTRAL-DENSITY FILTERS
When a scene has extreme exposure differences, like a landscape where the sky is much brighter than the foreground, a graduated neutral-density filter helps you expose for both by putting the darker part of the filter over the sky.
The Heliopan screw-in graduated neutral-density filters are available in strengths from one to three stops, and filter sizes from 49mm to 77mm. The Grad ND 4X provides two stops of density in a standard, calibrated rotating mount with front threads. Estimated Street Price: $149.
Singh-Ray graduated ND filters are available in two "soft-step" and two "hard-step" models. The soft-step filters work for scenes with no distinct boundary between the light and dark parts. The hard-step filters are ideal for scenes where sky and foreground areas are separate, usually at the horizon. Estimated Street Price: $99 to $400.
Filters also can create a variety of special effects in your photos.
Tiffen produces nearly every kind of special-effects filter you could ask for, from Fog models that mimic the look of natural fog to Glimmerglass, which softens fine details while adding a mild glow to highlights and reducing contrast. The company also offers filters for black and white, contrast control, tone control and color. Estimated Street Price: Varies.